Monday, July 27, 2009

New York Eateries Nearly Trans Fat-Free

Wow, according to this article from Reuters, restaurants in the state of New York are pretty much trans fat-free! That is pretty impressive.

Using new technologies, margarine manufacturers have met the challenge and eliminated or reduced trans fat in margarine products, making a good product even better. In fact, almost every soft margarine product now shows “0 grams trans fats” on its label.

Read on for more about the elimination of trans fats in the New York eatieries. Kudos!

New York restaurants nearly all trans-fat-free

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Two years after New York City declared war on artificial trans fats, nearly all city restaurants had successfully cut the artery-clogging fats from their menus, health officials reported Monday.

In December 2006, the city's Board of Health decided to launch a gradual trans-fat phase-out from all licensed eating establishments -- including restaurants, school cafeterias and street vending spots.

By November 2008, more than 98 percent of city restaurants had stopped using artificial trans fats for cooking, frying and baking, researchers with the city's health department report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Trans fats have become notorious because they not only raise so-called "bad" LDL cholesterol, as the saturated fats in animal products do, but also lower levels of so-called "good" HDL cholesterol.

While some meats and dairy products naturally contain trans fat, most trans fats in people's diet are artificial; they are formed when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil to make it solidify.

These so-called partially hydrogenated oils were long a staple in processed foods, like crackers, cookies and pastries, and widely used by restaurants in cooking, frying and baking.

In 2006, before the health department ban, half of New York City's restaurants were using trans fats. By November 2008, less than 2 percent were, according to Dr. Sonia Y. Angell and her colleagues at the Department of Health.

When the restriction was first adopted, the researchers note, some critics claimed it was an Orwellian measure, while others worried that restaurants would have a tough time finding suitable trans-fat replacements.

However, the transition has been smooth, Angell's team writes, asserting that trans-fat restriction "is now a largely unnoticed part of New York City life."

The researchers point out that food manufacturers have been quick to market trans-fat-free shortenings and other products, making the transition easier for restaurants. In general, they say, city restaurants report that the change has been "cost neutral."

Since New York's measure passed, more than a dozen jurisdictions, including California, have adopted similar laws, and many national restaurant chains have cut trans fats from their menus, Angell's team notes.

Ridding the food supply of trans fats, the researchers write, could potentially improve the cholesterol levels of millions of people.

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, July 21, 2009.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Five-a-day Vegetables with Parmesan

After a completely exhausting vacation on a week-long cruise (seriously!) I have no energy to even sit up, much less think. Who knew that a cruise would be so jam-packed? Anyways, my body is feeling drained from too much activity and WAY too much food. I'm going to try and stick to healthful recipes this week. Like this one...

Five-a-day Vegetables with Parmesan

4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
1 small onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 medium carrot, grated
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons margarine
teaspoon salt Black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese Instructions

1. Combine zucchini, onion, bell pepper, carrot, water, butter, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning in a large skillet. Cover and cook 1 minute. Uncover and cook, turning with wide spatula, until vegetables are barely tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. Toss and cook another minute.
Serves 8 to 10.

Tips from the Test Kitchen
Tips From Our Test Kitchen: Throw in a handful of chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano or thyme, with the tomatoes for extra flavor.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cruise Time Baby!

I hope everyone had a superb 4th of July! Why can't every week be a 4-day work week? Man, last week was great. I spent my 4th of July in Austin and every time I go there I am reminded of how much I love that city. The sites, the food, the people - you just can't beat it.

Anyways, today is actually my last day in the office for an entire week (!) because I'm going on my first-ever cruise. we're headed to the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Martin so if anybody has any tips on things to do or places to go, I'd love to hear 'em.

Cheers and I'll be talking to you in a week!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Margarine Wars

Being the margarine enthusiast that I am, I found this article rather amusing...

Imagine, if you will, a world where oleo-margarine is banned. Where only real butter is available and people have to smuggle the substitute substance across the border, avoiding border patrols, and taking back roads in the dead of night.

Is it some sort of Orwellian nightmare? Life in some oppressed communist satellite state? No, this was life in Wisconsin until the late 1960s, albeit with some fictional flourishes. These were the oleo wars and as silly as it may seem today, people then fought margarine as seriously as many fight genetically engineered food today.

Oleo-margarine was invented in 1869 by French scientist Hippolyte Mége-Mouries. He developed a way to extract an oil from beef fat. He combined this oil with milk, water, and a yellow dye to create a edible substance that resembled butter but was cheaper and stored better than the real thing.

His process was granted a U.S. patent in 1873 and by 1886 there were 37 plants in the United States manufacturing oleo-margarine. Fears soon developed that this product would be fraudulently substituted for real butter.

By 1886, the dairy lobby succeeded in having legislature passed that instituted labeling and packaging restrictions. Taxes were also imposed on margarine manufacturers. Wisconsin went a step further and in 1895 passed laws requiring hotels and restaurants to have clearly posted signs indicating that margarine was sold there.

They went even further by prohibiting the sale and manufacture of colored margarine (margarine was naturally white).

Despite these restrictions, the manufacture of margarine continued to increase and the dairy industry asked for more restrictions. The Grout Bill passed in 1902, which stated that margarine shipped between states was subject to the laws of the state it was being shipped to and that butter colored margarine was subject to a 10 cent per pound manufacturing tax while uncolored was only taxed 1/4 cent per pound.

It was the Great Depression and then World War II that gave oleo-margarine its greatest boosts. The Depression increased sales for the cheaper product and Wisconsin reacted by enacting license fees on margarine manufacturers and increasing the tax on the uncolored margarine to six cents per pound, while colored margarine was banned outright.

WWII, with it's food rationing, introduced margarine to many who had resisted it until then and after the war, as margarine's popularity gained, the government was forced to reconsider it's margarine legislation. In 1950, the federal law taxing colored margarine was repealed. Slowly, over the next decade, states that had instituted their own laws against margarine repealed them until only Wisconsin remained, refusing to change its laws.

In 1957, margarine consumption surpassed butter consumption, yet while others enjoyed their colored margarine and toast, in Wisconsin it was still illegal to use it and Wisconsinites were forced to color their own margarine or cross state lines to buy it. The 15 cent tax on uncolored margarine back in the 1950s was a huge extra expense that many families couldn't bare.

After much debate, including a blind taste test that embarrassed several of the pro-butter contingency, a law was passed on July 1, 1967 making colored margarine legal in Wisconsin for the first time since 1895. The product however, was still taxed until 1973.

Today, only a few laws regarding margarine still remain in Wisconsin, such as butter substitutes are not allowed to be served in state prisons and margarine may not be substituted for butter in restaurants unless requested by the customer